Godiva: A Novelby Nicole Galland
From the author of The Fool's Tale comes a brilliantly crafted retelling of the legend of Lady Godiva
According to legend, Lady Godiva lifted the unfair taxation of her people by her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, by riding through the streets of Coventry wearing only a smile. It's a story that's kept tongues wagging for nearly a thousand years. But/b>… See more details below
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From the author of The Fool's Tale comes a brilliantly crafted retelling of the legend of Lady Godiva
According to legend, Lady Godiva lifted the unfair taxation of her people by her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, by riding through the streets of Coventry wearing only a smile. It's a story that's kept tongues wagging for nearly a thousand years. But what would drive a lady of the court to take off everything and risk her reputation, her life, even her wardrobe—all for a few peasants' pennies?
In this daringly original, charmingly twisted take on an oft-imagined tale, Nicole Galland exposes a provocative view of Godiva not only in the flesh, but in all her glory. With history exonerating her dear husband, Godiva, helped along by her steadfast companion the abbess Edgiva, defies the tyranny of a new royal villain. Never before has Countess Godiva's ride into infamy—and into an unexpected adventure of romance, deceit, and naked intrigue—been told quite like this.
Verdict Galland’s Godiva is shallow and dim-witted, and her famous ride feels like an afterthought in a narrative primarily devoted to her interference in the love life of her best friend. Many historical fiction fans may object to the historically implausible speech and actions of the protagonists, most apparent in their flippant attitudes toward the teachings of the Christian church. Clunky writing and inconsistent characterization unfortunately make this a largely missed opportunity to reimagine Lady Godiva’s ride meaningfully for a modern audience.Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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By Nicole Galland
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Nicole Galland
All rights reserved.
In the time it took Godiva to wrest a concession from the young
man, she could have as easily spun a skein of yarn. She did not
much like spinning yarn; wresting concessions from young men,
however, was agreeable enough. Gloucester's dank great hall
proved especially agreeable for concession- wresting; this was her
third today. But Sweyn, who was absurdly handsome and had
the intensity of a catamount, was her perennial favorite. At the
moment she had him against a wall. The hall was full, bustling
with men and women of rank, and he was certain they were all
laughing at him.
“I concede that perhaps,” Sweyn allowed, at last, “acciden-
tally, my herders might have strayed over the border. A bit. In
that one valley.”
“Thus accounting for . . . ?” she prompted.
“Thus accounting for Mercian sheep,” he acknowledged,
“ending up as mutton on Herefordshire tables.”
4 NICOLE GALLAND
Her golden- green eyes, framed by her glittering veil, blinked
expectantly. This was about more than poached mutton, and
they both knew it, but each hoped to avoid saying so outright.
“And, of course, I shall make amends for that,” he said ur-
gently into the silence.
The countess Godiva relaxed and smiled. “In what manner?”
“If you give me an accounting of the missing flocks, I will re-
“That's an excellent beginning,” she approved. With confiding
tone she added, “But he'll want more than that as recompense.
“Of course.” Sweyn watched her sparrowlike hand flutter
toward the spot on his chest where his leather cloak hung open.
She watched him watching her; she could smell the mix of pleasure
and dismay her movement elicited in him. It was a scent she was
familiar with. “Lady Countess, pray but tell me what he wants.”
She stood up straighter, enough that he could breathe with-
out inhaling her perfume. She clasped her hands together at her
heart, her bracelets clinking importantly against her necklaces.
“I suspect he shall like to hear that you will express your regret
and replace the missing sheep twice over. That would be so very
generous of you.”
“Oh, 'tis nothing,” said Sweyn, trying to maintain a shred of
“And I think perhaps building palisades, or earthworks that
are defensible from our side, not yours, just to remind your
naughty . . . shepherds . . . not to wander so far into Leofric's
He stiffened, resisting, as she looked at him with one fine pale
eyebrow cocked in warning. He frowned.
“Shall I call him over to ask if he would like that, or shall you
trust my judgment on it?” Her fingers probed between the two
sides of his cloak, coming to rest delicately beneath them on the
decorative seam of his tunic. He pulled away, as if shocked by the
touch. “I'll build the palisades,” he offered almost desperately.
“And sign your mark to such a promise? Just so there is no
confusion as to what we have discussed?”
“Yes,” he growled.
“And might you show me the progress, if we meet seasonally
at the border?”
“Very well,” he said, a chastised child.
“Lovely,” she said. She moved her small hand so that the flat
of her palm rested on his chest. He inhaled sharply, at which she
smiled apologetically. Then unnecessarily lowering her voice she
added, “What a shame Leofric will not be able to join us. Will
you mind terribly a rendezvous with me alone?”
“You alone with half a dozen of your husband's armed men,
Countess. And no doubt a priest.”
“I shall send them all on an errand for an evening,” she whis-
“Your methods of persuasion should be outlawed,” Sweyn
said. “And I am not the only one to think so.” His handsome head
nodded slightly to his right, and she glanced in that direction
without quite turning her head.
When she saw whom he referred to, she pulled away from him
on reflex, almost guiltily.
The redoubtable Abbess of Leominster was eyeing them from
the Holy Corner of the king's drab wattle- and- daub hall, where
all the religious congregated between sessions of the Great
Council. Godiva could tell it was the abbess by her remarkably
6 NICOLE GALLAND
erect carriage, and because there was no decoration whatsoever
on her garments, hanging shapeless and dark about her. It was
too dim to read the Face Superior— what little of it showed— but
Godiva, knowing her so well, could guess her thoughts.
To avoid dwelling on them, Godiva turned her head in the
other direction and saw her husband's broad, slightly slouching
silhouette near the hall door. He too had been eyeing them.
She stepped back from Sweyn abruptly again, as if they had
been practicing a dance move and the musician had suddenly
been shot. “Thank you, darling Hereford, I shall have His Maj-
esty's cleric take down your mark this evening after whatever
tries to pass as supper.” And then, dropping all pretense of play-
fulness, she asked him firmly, but not unkindly: “Was not this
better than Leofric accusing you before the Council of armed
Before he could answer, she swirled to her right and walked,
graceful and swift, toward the hall door where Leofric of Mercia
Sweyn watched after her a moment, and then ruefully rubbed
his face with both hands. Someday she will be old, he reminded
himself. And will stop having this effect on everyone.
He glanced guiltily at the abbess, but could not read her ex-
pression in the dim light.
“And he will himself build the palisades for us,” she said, her
cheek resting on Leofric's bare chest. “Under our supervision.
Defensible from our side only. He will sign his mark to it tonight.”
“How great a danger do you rate him?”
She grimaced dismissively. “ 'Tis nothing serious. An impul-
sive youthful escapade in amorality, nothing strategic or even
Excerpted from Godiva by Nicole Galland. Copyright © 2013 Nicole Galland. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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What People are saying about this
“An astonishing work of imaginative empathy, buttressed by deep research and enriched by lively storytelling.”
“This is a wonderful historical novel that proves that all people see themselves as the hero of their own lives.”
Meet the Author
Nicole Galland is the author of four previous novels: The Fool's Tale, Revenge of the Rose, Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade, and I, Iago. She's worked in theater, screenwriting, magazine publishing, grad-schooling, teaching, temping, and other random enterprises. She is the cofounder of Shakespeare for the Masses, a project that irreverently makes the Bard accessible to the Bardophobes of the world. She is married to actor Billy Meleady.
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4.5 Stars 'Godiva' is a historical fiction novel that goes beyond the well known story of Lady Godiva - the woman who rode naked on horseback to help the people of her country - to show how she came to be on that horse and her life leading up to that infamous ride. This was a beautifully written retelling of an ancient legend and one that makes the infamous Lady Godiva seem not only human, but realistic to the reader. Throughout the novel, we get to read about Godiva's daily life - her struggles, her passions, the problems of her court and her people, and the deception and intrigue that was a daily issue for her. The plot was richly told with vivid detail and intricate descriptions, and I could easily imagine myself experiencing life beside Godiva as the events unfolded. The book told the "behind the scenes" story of Godiva and her life, so we get a real look as her as a person instead of the famous legend she has become. I loved reading about the history of the time and the details that the author provided throughout the story felt authentic and realistic. The writing was impeccably done and really showcased the author's talent - it's clear why she is a best selling author after reading this book. The author has given life and a fresh breath of air to this famous woman in history and fans of the genre, as well as any reader who appreciates beautiful and well written novels should not miss out on this masterpiece of literature. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Godiva Nicole Galland Nicole Galland, author of The Fool’s Tale, turns her clever pen toward re-imagining the famous legend of Lady Godiva in this expertly crafted historical novel set in Anglo-Saxon England. A 12th-century noblewoman, Lady Godiva is infamous for riding naked through Coventry to relieve her people of her husband’s unfair and oppressive taxation. Leofric, Earl of Mercia, said he would ease the tax burden if she would ride through the streets, wearing only her glorious, long hair. In doing so she risked everything, including her home and well-being. Told with humor and precise attention to detail, Nicole Galland’s Godiva brings to life the adventures of the legendary lady, her husband and her best friend the Abbess Egdiva in thrilling detail. It’s an entertaining tale of courtly intrigue, deceit, and romance that is sure to captivate fans of literary and historical fiction. Godiva by Nicole Galland. It is a novel meant to entertain. It’s a light, quick, read about the intriguing Lady Godiva who has been legendary in English history. It’s light on historical facts, but with just enough historical detail to bring the times to life. I loved the simple way the introduction was written. It helped explain a complex history regarding the tax in elegantly simple prose. The book then opens with Godiva using her sexual prowess to put an end to a dispute between her husband and a neighboring lord. It tainted my expectations of Lady Godiva and made her seem more of a strumpet than a wise and strong wife. It also sent a warning bell ringing in my mind because it made me think the book would turn out to be like one of those all too common, inexpensive, bodice ripper romances. Lucikly, as the novel progresses, Lady Godiva is given a little more substance. The novel was not encumbered with too many characters, so it was easy to read. I liked that very much. It allowed me to relax into the story without having to struggle to keep track of who is who. Much to my delight, the author introduced only those characters integral to the story. However, one character is missing according to her legend, and that is Peeping Tom, the one person who refused to avert his eyes and stole a look at her while she rode naked. Another fact that might have been a little distorted is legend says it was her husband who imposed the tax and who initiated her naked ride, however, in the novel it is her husband’s overlord, with Leofric against the display, but coming to her aid in helping her make it through. My favorite subplot was that of Godiva’s friend, Abbess Egdiva and the troubles she got into. The brilliance of the book is the chapters that pertain to Lady Godiva’s naked ride. I thought that was writing at its very best, gripping, descriptive, emotional – it had it all. There are a few flaws in the historical details, but for those readers who are more into the story than the history of the times, this will not be a problem. All in all, this was an interesting novel, not one of my favorites by this author, but good all the same.
Misses the mark